Geneva (May 15, 2018) – With the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Djibouti taking place last week before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, concerns remain about the Djiboutian authorities’ willingness to make significant improvements to the human rights situation in the country.
While many of the recommendations made by intervening states reflect the issues raised by Alkarama both in its shadow report and during the briefing session to foreign representations in Geneva, the Djiboutian delegation's responses did not meet the expectations of civil society. Prior to the review, Alkarama raised cases of arbitrary arrests as well as recurrent testimonies of incommunicado detentions, torture and ill-treatment, and inhuman conditions of detention, recalling the need for Djibouti to ratify international instruments that would prevent and put an end to such violations.
In particular, Alkarama emphasised the importance of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OpCAT), which requires State Parties to establish independent complaint and control mechanisms for places of detention in order to prevent torture. Similarly, by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), the state could prevent incommunicado detentions.
Many states, including Uruguay, Slovenia, Spain and Kenya, recommended that Djibouti accede to the OpCAT and ICPPED, while others encouraged Djibouti to extend a standing invitation to special procedures to undertake country visits to assess the human rights situation within their respective mandates.
The issue of reprisals against members of civil society including journalists, bloggers, activists, human rights defenders and political opponents was also raised by several NGOs including Alkarama. Alkarama welcomes the fact that many states expressed their concern about arbitrary arrests and other measures significantly restricting the space of civil society in Djibouti.
The majority of European states, as well as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Zambia and Burkina Faso thus recommended that Djibouti ensure the respect for fundamental freedoms in law and in practice, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of access to information and the right to freely participate in the public affairs of the country.
Ireland expressed its concerns about the retaliatory measures taken against Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, a human rights defender who was arrested and interrogated by agents of the Documentation and Security Service upon his return from Geneva, where he participated in the pre-session of the UPR. The agents also confiscated his passport without providing any reason.
While cases of reprisals were reported by several Djiboutian and international NGOs, the delegation denied this practice, saying that "freedom of the press is guaranteed" but "because of the country's geographical location and extremism and terrorism it faces”, the state had to "remain vigilant".
Following the review, Khadidja Nemar, Regional Legal Officer for the Nile and North Africa at Alkarama, stated that "denying violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Djibouti, or justifying them by the geographical location of the country and the need to combat terrorism highlight, on one hand, the need for both local and international civil society to remain alert to such speeches and the abuses they allow, and, on the other hand, that states with military bases in the country must not put their strategic and security interests before the rights and fundamental freedoms of the Djiboutian people".
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